Censorship Through Extortion

by Mitchell Gyde

Ok, everyone took one look at the title and thought, "Is this guy an extremist or just some drug junkie?" You might think Iím being overboard, but I think any letter-based rating system about "objectionable material" is nothing more than censorship through extortion. Iím talking about the ESRB as well as the MPAA. This editorial is an explanation of this point-of-view.

How many "R" rated movies have you seen in theaters this year? Ok, how many "NC-17" rated movies are released in theaters have you seen in theaters in the past ten years? Now, how many "R" rated movies do you know for certain to have been edited to prevent obtaining an "NC-17" rating from the MPAA? How many times have you heard someone gripe about how little was removed just to drop the rating in each instance? Do you see where Iím going with this?

Some people will comment that since so little was removed, it isnít a big deal and therefore, we shouldnít complain. I take a slightly different stance: since so little is removed, it isnít a big deal and therefore, why bother removing said material at all?

Thereís the coined phrase: if you give them an inch, theyíll take a mile. A letter rating system has been implemented for video games, movies, and television programming. There are those who want to ban the sale of "M" rated games to minors. This would cause the "M" rating to be avoided in the video game industry as much as the "NC-17" rating is dodged in the motion picture industry.

"Tone down the content of your game, or weíll slap on a rating that will seriously cut into sales." This is what I mean by censorship through extortion. Some people say we shouldnít go too far, but who determines what "too far" is? What about people who disagree with that opinion?

I talk to people about freedom of speech. They tell me that such freedom also means the freedom to avoid what we donít want to see and hear. If thatís the case, why not simply list the "objectionable material" on the back of the package instead of a letter rating? I know, they already do that with games. What about movies? Why not simply list the same kind of content in movies instead letters?

Some would tell me that they prefer letters because theyíre easier to understand. I donít agree. Who decides what letter to rate a game or movie? Are there specific guidelines to follow, or does personal opinion have a lot of influence in that decision? Donít personal opinions differ from person to person? Doesnít the same personís opinion fluctuate from time to time? Why should we trust a letter rating system founded on opinions?

In summation, itís perfectly fine to let people know what kind of content is in a piece of art. On the other hand, to make it possible to mark a piece of art as "going too far" is the same as saying that itís not going to sell well enough to bother unless they "tone it down." Again, that is censorship through extortion.

Of course, thatís just my opinion. I could be legally insane for all you know.

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